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After two years, govt yet to fix responsibility in Rs3.3bn tax evasion

March 5, 2017 12:25 pm

ISLAMABAD: After a lapse of over two years, the government has yet to fix responsibility in a case that caused revenue losses of over Rs3 billion to the national exchequer. A case of massive evasion of duty and taxes at Peshawar dry port was reported, Dawn has learnt. As many as 5,000 containers were cleared at lower duty and taxes in a period of eight months (July 2013 to Feb 2014) at the Peshawar Dry Port, according to the findings of an inquiry. Informed sources told Dawn that the then chief collector (north region) had written several letters to collector of customs (Model Customs Collectorate, Peshawar) and the member customs of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) about the case.The chief collector (north)directed to conduct audit but no action was taken. A joint examination conducted by the director general confirmed massive evasion of duties and taxes in the case. Consequently, the FBRs Directorate of General Intelligence and Investigation constituted an inquiry committee that submitted its report into the scam early 2015. The inquiry revealed gross irregularities in the examination of the containers and alleged that the senior management of the Peshawar collectorate did not move to check the evasion. There was no weight bridge installed at the dry port that process thousands of containers, according to the report. Meanwhile, the FBR quietly transferred officials allegedly involved in the scam. As per finding of the report, the total duty and taxes evaded worth Rs3bn declaring 2,000 containers as carrying miscellaneous. The said containers were actually carrying fabric, lead acid batteries and crockery. The Customs intelligence report determined that a container was cleared at a payment of around Rs0.5 million duty and taxes as against the actual duty and taxes to the tune of Rs1.7m per container. Instead of taking action on the findings of the inquiry committee, the report remained unattended with the FBR for one and a half years. Subsequently, another committee was constituted in December 2016. The second committee submitted its report within a month to the former FBR chairman but even this report failed to motivate the hierarchy to penalise those found responsible. Subsequently, the National Accountability Bureau of Peshawar intervened and started investigation into the scam. The bureau has issued notices to the tax officials involved in the scam, the source said. In the last three years, the customs duty collection has witnessed growth because of imposition of regulatory duties on several hundred items and rate increases. (News By DAWN NEWS)

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